My kid is seven weeks old. In that seven weeks, I feel like we’ve covered a lot of ground. Pretty much everything we’ve done is a first — first time taking a bath in a tub (traumatic), first time breastfeeding in public (at a bowling alley), first time wearing pants (him, not me, and really not that necessary in my opinion). From small milestones to large, I’ve been there for almost all of them, and although the kid doesn’t know his hand from a hole in the ground (or from my lady’s boob at times), I feel like we’ve done a tremendous amount of father-son bonding.
But being a dad is an interesting thing. It’s not fully automatic. Granted, from the moment he was born, there was this feeling I had that I couldn’t quite shake – and not just the sinking feeling that college in 2028 was gonna cost me a half million dollars. It was the feeling that I was in charge (so to speak). If the kid had a wet diaper, I was changing it. If he was crying, I was dipping his pacifier in whiskey (I mean swaddling him). Still, no matter how many times I walked my kid up and down our hallway singing “Amazing Grace” (his soothe song), I for some reason didn’t feel like I was truly a Dad (big D), but more like someone impersonating an actual dad (small d).
That all changed a couple of nights ago. Like most “good” dads, I try to help my lady through the nighttime feedings. Our kid, you can set a clock by his stomach. Every three hours he has to feed, and whether he’s in a deep sleep or in the car on the way home from the mall, when that three hours hits he just about loses it. Most nights I try to get outta bed at the first sign of hunger-fussiness (our kid sleeps in a bassinet next to our bed) and bring the kid to his Mother. It’s the least I can do. Then as he fumbles through fifteen minutes of boob-time, I try to stay awake by playing Angry Birds (I’m a sensei) or sending Facebook messages to my Slovak cousins (it’s day time there). Inevitably the kid falls asleep after the first course, so we have to wake him up to continue. The best way to do this is, of course, to change his diaper.
I have no idea why my kid hates having his diaper changed. I’m taking a terrible situation (sitting in your own pee and poo) and making it 100% better (not sitting in your own pee and poo). This seems like a win-win to me. Instead of crying, my kid should be giving me a high-five. But no, my kid inevitably squirms, then shouts, then wakes up all the neighbors.
It was during one of these 3 AM sessions that I had my epiphany.
When my kid poops, he does so with great force. If you’re holding him, it feels like a jackhammer in your hand. Being a dad, I of course think this is awesome. I mean, if you’re gonna poop, poop to win. I also giggle when he farts (I don’t care — it’s hilarious). So when I was changing this particular diaper with his hind-quarters raised off the bed (I was changing him on a changing pad on our white duvet cover) and he proceeded to let out a little toot more so directly in my face, I couldn’t help myself from cracking up.
I turned to my lady and was like “Dude, he just farted in my face”. My lady, of course, responded in the only reasonable fashion – by rolling her eyes and questioning why she allowed me to impregnate her in the first place. But as she did, a weird thing happened. Time suddenly slowed to a crawl. I was in a car crash. I was in The Matrix. For as I was holding my kid’s legs up off the bed, there was but not another fart flying in my direction, but a jackhammer.
Now I’ve always prided myself on having great reflexes. I have no idea why this is. I am not an athlete. I’m not even all that coordinated. But reflexes, for whatever reason, I have. And thank God. Because as a rocket poo squirted out of my child’s behind, heading straight for the promised land of both myself and the white duvet cover, I reached down with my hand and caught it like a hockey goalie – the entire wet mustardy mess of it.
My lady, although she couldn’t see what had occurred, immediately knew something was wrong. “What happened?” she asked. And I answered, in all honesty, “I caught his poop. Also, in my mind, I’ve protected my son from grave danger and in doing so, I have crossed the boundary from caretaker (dad with a small d) to Dad (large D), doer of all things grand, champion of the innocent, and all-around positive influence on this kid’s life.”
Okay, maybe I didn’t say all of that. But I felt it. It was ridiculously comical and it was ridiculously benign, but in that moment, I knew that I would be there for him, even if he grew up to be a teenage douchebag. This was an act out of the ordinary. This was something that wasn’t hardwired. This was poo flying through the air. A normal person steps aside. They let the poo go past. At the very least they catch it with a diaper, not their hand.
But I did it, barehanded and all. And even as I struggled to contain the poo from spilling, I don’t know, everywhere, I knew in my mind that I simply did not care. I would catch that poo a thousand times.
I was the Dad. He was my Son. And we were ready to have about a million more firsts together.